It doesn’t matter if you’re a mercenary, a Green Beret, or a small army: if you mess with Arnold’s kid, you’re going down. That’s right, it’s Commando! Let off some steam as we talk about one of the best action movies ever.
Here we’ll take a look at 10 things you never knew about Commando.
It was written for Gene Simmons.
Commando was originally conceived as a vehicle for none other than Gene Simmons. Despite the critical beating taken by KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, the Demon still had the acting bug going into the ’80s. He played the villain in Tom Selleck’s Runaway, turned up in an episode of Miami Vice, and played a radio DJ in one of MovieWeb’s favourite cult films, Trick Or Treat. Simmons actually turned down Commando, which was co-written by his friends Matthew Weisman and Jeph Loeb, who is now the head of Marvel Television. They rewrote with Nick Nolte in mind.
It was rewritten for Arnold
After the success of Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator, Hollywood was hungry for more Schwarzenegger. Steven de Souza was brought in to retool the Commandoscript, which was about an Israeli soldier who’d turned his back on violence but was forced out of retirement when his wife and daughter are kidnapped. De Souza moved the kidnapping up from the middle of the movie and cut the wife out entirely. He and Arnold made sure to adjust any lines that may be troublesome with an Austrian accent, a process they repeated on The Running Man.
Rae Dawn Chong beat out several actresses
Rae Dawn Chong, whose father is Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame, beat out several actresses for the role of Cindy, including Sharon Stone and Brigitte Nielsen. In an oral history put together by Empire, she revealed one unseen moment. “There was supposed to be a sex scene between Arnold and I when we’re flying to the dictator’s island,” she explained. “But I thought it was gratuitous because in a time-sensitive situation you’re not feeling frisky. Plus, who would be flying the plane?”
Arnold wasn’t sold on Bennett at first
It’s Arnold’s movie of course, but there’s no denying the special magic of Vernon Wells as Bennett, a star among an already impressively colourful rogue’s gallery. But Arnold needed convincing. The seven-time Mr. Olympia wasn’t sold on nice guy Wells, who was flown in from Australia to replace another actor who’d been fired after the first day. But once Wells, a killer villain in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Weird Science, got into character, Arnold changed his mind after just one scene. Wells was apparently very convincing with the whole knife-to-the-throat business.
Arnold’s knife in Commando is called the Life Support System I, a handmade knife made by the late Jack Crain. Arnold loved the LS-1 and requested it for Commando. Crain designed the smaller “Scorpion” and “Commando” for him as well, which are seen briefly when Arnold flings them simultaneously at two approaching bad guys. Crain, however, did not design the knife used by Bennett. The knife maker, who passed away in 2017, was adamant that only heroes could use his knives onscreen. Crain’s craftsmanship can also be seen in Predator, Road House, and Demolition Man.
Sully was held up by a crane
In the famous scene where Matrix does not, in fact, kill Sully last the Austrian Oak isn’t actually holding him over that cliff. Director Mark L. Lester overestimated Arnold’s strength and was panicked when he learned that his actor wouldn’t be able to carry his 160 lb. costar across the road and hold him for hours and hours of takes. So the director brought a crane in and had David Patrick Kelly suspended from wires.
Commando scored a record deal for Alyssa Milano
The Who’s the Boss? star was just 12 years old when Commando was released. The movie’s success had one particularly unique side effect for her. “Commando was massive in Japan,” she explained to Empire. “For some reason, when it came out over there, a record-company exec offered me a five-album contract, assuming I could sing. It was so bizarre that I had to do it, and all five went platinum.”
There was a line of action figures in the ’80s
Despite the movie’s massive body count and nonstop violence a line of action figures was released in 1985. You know, when action figures were still mostly for kids. Since all the guys in John Matrix’s unit were dead, the toy line featured Matrix and some new guys in his unironically named “C-Team.” The Road Warrior looking bad guys were called F.E.A.R., whose leader was a very Bennett looking guy named Psycho. There were Star Wars / G.I. Joe sized figures and 7″ sized ones, as well.
It’s part of a shared cinematic universe
During the movie’s climax, Matrix takes out what seems like every stunt person in Hollywood and a bunch of mannequins, too. Lester had seen Rambo: First Blood Part IIand decided at the eleventh hour to go even bigger, which cost the production so much money that the final duel between Matrix and Bennett ended up in a much smaller setting than originally planned. The country once commanded by the main bad guy doesn’t actually exist. De Souza first used Val Verde as a television writer. The general in Die Hard 2 is from the same fictitious country. De Souza has said he believes that Predator, which also starred Arnold, takes place there, too. We actually made a silly video with all of the various connections this weaves together.
There was almost a Commando 2
There was almost a sequel to Commando, ‘though contrary to internet rumours, it did not turn into Die Hard. Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever, a sequel to The Detective, which was adapted into a movie starring Frank Sinatra. (Yes, Ol Blue Eyes was the original John McClane.) But Steven de Souza, who also wrote Die Hard, did pen a script for Commando 2 at one point. It would have seen Arnold breaking into a corporate building, guarded by goons he’d actually hand selected himself, in order to free Jenny and Cindy. At some point, three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont did a pass on the script, but alas, Commando 2 never happened. A Commando remake was reportedly in development as far back as 2009.